I recently read a book called Sheepish about a lesbian couple who runs a sheep farm. One of the things the author made sure to cover was how prevalent death is when you're raising animals and living in the country. No matter how many lambs she and her lover lost, it never really got easier. So one of the ways she learned to cope with the stress of farming was to learn to knit. She had her flock's own wool spun into yarn and she turned to her needles whenever she needed to decompress.
Yesterday a bird crashed into our sliding glass door and despite my efforts, it died. When I found it flapping on the lawn, I scooped it up and put it in a shoebox on our back porch, with water and some soft grass. I messaged Mr. W for advice and then called my dad (a frequent bird rescuer). He told me there wasn't much I could do other than keep it somewhere where predators wouldn't get it and just wait and see.
When it got dark, I noticed the little bird was starting to shiver. He'd been toppling over and seeming to go in and out of sleep for awhile, but I wasn't ready to give up my fight. I asked Mr. W again what he thought my next move should be and he suggested putting a heating pad under the box. Unfortunately, I think the heating pad is in his apartment in Hollwyood. I searched the house and couldn't find it, so I decided instead to shred up some pillow stuffing from my sewing kit and tuck that around the little guy to keep him warm.
Except, when I went back to the box, he had stopped moving.
I cried for about 45 minutes.
This morning, I dug a hole under our apricot tree and buried him. And then I did what the author of Sheepish did—I decided to cope by creating. One thing had died, so I wanted to give birth to another.
I spent the afternoon putting together our new outdoor dining set from IKEA. After assembling each chair, I sat in it for a minute, taking in the view, enjoying the warm autumn air.
I was just twisting the last of the screws in the last chair when I noticed a little flock of birds coming to play in the sprinkler on our lawn. They perched on our fence and ruffled their feathers in delight as the water fell on them. And of course, I imagined them coming to tell me that they knew I had tried and that I was forgiven.
Not sure if it was the visiting birds or the sense of accomplishment, but I felt much better after that.
And next time death comes knocking, I'll give it my best effort to keep the door closed, but if I can't win at least I'll have an effective way to cope.